San Diego

The Possibility of Closing Combat Roles for Women in the Military

“If you train the same, if you can keep up, you can mentally do it, why not?” one veteran said.

Women can hold any job in the U.S. Military under the Obama Administration, a policy that may change under the Trump Administration. 

Last year, after a series of intensive studies that took years to complete, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the military to open all combat jobs to woman, allowing them to serve in some of the military's most demanding and difficult jobs, including special operations forces, such as the Army Delta units and Navy SEALs. 

Some female veterans, including Marine Veteran Kelsey Hampton, say they hope all jobs in the military will remain open to women.

“I think that if a woman and serve in combat and keep up with all the men that they should be able to - I don't think that they should withhold the opportunity," she said.

However, others, like Congressman Duncan Hunter, whose name has been reportedly short-listed for Secretary of Defense in the Trump Administration, says combat roles should not be open to woman. 

"It doesn't do anything to make us more effective or efficient at getting the job done and killing our enemies and protecting our allies. It's just a distraction," he told the Washington Times. 

Hunter says agrees with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford,  on reversing the decision to open direct land combat jobs in the infantry and special operations to women.

Steve Diamond, Navy veteran and F-14 mission commander, said the rules are different in combat.

“The rules of a civilized society do not and should not apply to the savage world of combat," Diamond said. "What matters there only is who survives and who wins, so any notion of equality doesn't matter.”

Diamond says the U.S. should mirror the Israel Defense Forces, where women are placed in combat roles based not just on testing, but actual field experience.

“Hence there are certain roles that they are prohibited from and there are certain roles they are encouraged to be in because they do them well,” Diamond said.

Some other women veterans we spoke with, some of whom had been in combat situations, say the issue is complicated, and there are times when it doesn’t make sense to have women fighting side by side with men.

Some estimates say that if all combat jobs were closed to women, it would mean there were approximately 300,000 fewer jobs for women in the military. 

Others, like some officials on Congressman Hunter’s staff, say that number is overstated and it is likely that not all combat jobs would be limited.

Diamond said women could still reach the highest ranks in the military, even if combat roles were limited. 

“There is no reason at all why women who are in the rules they perform cannot reach the highest level that's a completely different animal than whether not they should be and every single combat role," he said. 

Hampton says she thinks keeping all jobs open for women is a motivating factor, and she has enjoyed the competitive nature of being a Marine.

“It did push me to want to do it more to keep up with the guys and do everything that they were doing but I didn't have the opportunity back then, so I think it's a great thing for women to get the opportunity,” Hampton said.

She says the preparation in the Marine Corps ensures women can achieve new heights.

“If you train the same, if you can keep up, you can mentally do it, why not?” Hampton said. 

Contact Us